I can remember when it all started. So many centuries gone by, so many lives destroyed. It began when I was a mortal living in Canton. As a young Chinese girl in the 1800's, I often watched the white men, the foreigners near the docks. I hung around the white factories for most of the day. In this way I learned to speak and understand English. I was only 15 then. As i grew older I learned to read many of the outsiders languages. There was something that drew me to them, they were so different from me.

Everyday I helped my mother, by watching my siblings and doing chores. My father had been killed by theives when I was younger. My grandfather had always disliked my mother and threw us into the street when my father was killed. They gave us a little money and shut the door in our faces. With the rest of my mother's dowry we bought a small apartment and built a store out front. We sold Chinese good luck charms, tea pots, other chinese trinkets and simple Chinese foods. Next door to our little apartment was a "House of Pleasures", at least that's what my mother had called it. She said to me one day, "Never go in there Jade. That house is full of women who make money, but dishonorably." I nodded and sometimes glanced at the door. I saw so many men walk in, but rarely saw any women come out. It wasn't until years later when I understood that it was a whore house. The years passed and I grew up. My mother's friends would stop by and exclaim, "Waaaah, you daughter is so tall and pretty." My mother would smile and invite her friends in to have tea, while I sat out front.
One day, I was managing the shop, watching as the lanterns were being lit for the night. Soon the streets were filled with people, playing games, eating good food, and buying things. I sat on a little wooden stool, watching the people walk by. Occasionally a person would stop at our stand, either to get a little food or to talk with my mother. Once or twice a foreigner would stop and admire our goods. My mother never liked them, they scared her. She always let me deal with them if possible. To me they were normal people, they just looked different. I wondered why they wore such strange clothing and why they did things so differently from us. I sat there pondering these things, when a deep musical voice broke through my thoughts.
"Excuse me." I looked up to see a young man, slightly older than me. His black hair hung neatly around his face and his skin was paler than snow. But what startled me the most were his eyes, they were a deep blue that seemed to go on forever. And if you looked into them you would be lost. I finally managed to find my voice.
"Can I help you?"
"Can I have a bowl of noodle soup?" he asked in Chinese. I got up and went to the kitchen. As I filled a bowl up I turned to look at the man. He was sitting at one of the tables we had set up for our customers. He wore a clean foreign suit that looked like those of a rich man's. I wondered what he was doing at a small stand like ours. I carried the bowl out carefully and set it in front of him.
howdy"Thank You" he said. Pulling out his coin purse, he handed more than enough for one bowl of soup.
"Sir you needn't pay this much." I handed back his change. Gently, he took my hand and closed it around the coins.
"Keep it, buy yourself something pretty." His hands were suprisingly cold, but his voice was like a fresh breeze.
"Oh, Thank You sir," I said and bowed. I returned to my wooden stool and watched him eat. He ate slowly, watching the people walking by and working around him. After he finished he thanked me again and walked off. I watched him until he disappeared into the crowd. Sighing I picked up the empty bowl and put it back into the sink. The crowds of people slowly diminished as the night wore on. I put the trinkets away and closed shop. My mother was asleep with my brother and sister tucked in next to her. I pulled out the straw mat I slept on and fell asleep.
The next morning my mother got up early and opened the shop. My brother and sister were already sitting on the floor playing. I got up, washed myself and went to help my mother. Business was slow as usual so I went to give my siblings their lessons. Ever since my father died, we had to stop going to school. Everything I learned was from what my mother could teach me. I would teach my little brother and sister from my old textbooks. My friends had left when I had become poor. They all seemed to leave me at the same time.
The next day I tended the stand while my mother went to the market. She came back at lunch and cooked some rice with a little dried meat and vegetables. The day drageed on and nothing much happened. I sold a few bowls of noodles and some good luck charms. Seemed everyone, including me was in need of some luck. Night fell soon enough and people filled the streets near empty streets. My mother took over for me and I went inside to clean the rooms.
"Jade!" she called. "Please bring out a bowl of noodle soup." I scooped the noodles in a bowl, added some soup and took it outside. To my astonishment, it was the same man from the night before. He smiled at me. Shyly I smiled back and set the bowl down.
"So did you get something nice with the extra money I gave you?"
I shook my head, "No, we need the extra money for food, but thank you." His face never changed. He nodded and sat down to eat. Again he payed more than necessary and made me keep the extra. From then on everynight he appeared and gradually we began to talk. His name was Michael. I told him everything about me, he was always asking questions. I learned he was a rich man and that his parents had died a long time ago. He was only 18, but he looked 21. His eyes still threw me off, there was something different about them. His eyes looked older than he really was, it wasn't until later I would learn how true this statement was.
One cold december night my mother caught a fever, she never got better. I tried to make her comfortable, feeding her herbal medicines and letting her sleep. But a month later she died in her sleep. I cried for days, nothing helped. My brother and sister were confused as to why their mother had gone away. Not even Michael, whom I grew close to, could help. I struggled to keep my brother and sister safe and happy. One night I returned from buying food to find them gone. Frantic, I asked my neigbors if they knew where they had gone. My mother's friend said the authorities took them to an orphanage. I asked where the orphanage was, my mother's friend gave me directions and I started to run. It began to snow and I soon got lost. My vision was blurred by tears and I stumbled and fell. Laying there in the snow I couldn't stop crying. The cold seeped through my clothes and numbed my body. Before I blacked out, I felt someone pick me up gently.

Chapter 2

I woke up and found myself in a strange room. It wasn't like any room I had seen before. The walls weren't made of paper and wood, but some strange white stone. A small wooden table was to my right and near the door was another desk. Across the room was a closet and a giant object covered by a sheet. The bed I sat in was made out of dark wood and covered with the whitest and softest blankets I had ever felt.
The door opened and a small old lady walked in. "Ah, you're up. How are you feeling?" she asked in English. I had never actually spoken in English to anyone before, just practiced to myself. She walked over to me and laid a hand on my forehead. "Well your fever broke."
I coughed. "Where am I? What time is it?"
The motherly old woman smiled, "Master Michael brought you in last night. It's almost sunset. Rest and I'll bring you something to eat." This is where Michael lives? I thought. It never really occured to me that he lived in a house. I laughed at myself, of course he had to live in a house. I laid back down on the pillow and tried to remember what had happened the night before. There had been snow, cold, my brother and sister! I had to find them still. I jumped out of the bed and opened the door just as the woman returned with a tray of food.
"Oh my, where do you think you're going?" she asked.
"My brother and sister, have to find them. They're out there, somewhere..." I cried, desperate to get out. She set the tray down on the desk and pushed me back inside.
"Don't worry, I'm sure Master Michael will take care of it. Besides you are not going out into the snow wearing pajamas." I looked down and realized I was wearing some sort of white dress that went down to my ankles. Blushing I climbed back into the bed. She gave me some soup I had never tasted before, but it warmed me up nicely. I drank the soup quickly and the woman laughed. "I'll get you some more."
"Thank you..wha..what's your name?" I asked.
"Mary." she replied. "Now you rest some more and I'll be back with more soup and no jumping out of bed." Chuckling to herself, Mary took the tray back downstairs. I looked out the window and saw snow falling against the black night. I started thinking about my brother and sister again, I had to find them. A few minutes later the door opened again.

"Mary.."I started, then realized it was Michael. "Michael!" He walked in and smiled at me as he sat down at the edge of the bed. "I need your help, my brother and sister! I still need to find them. Someone took them, they're at some orphanage. I tried to find it but... I got lost."
"I know, Jade, I tried to find you last night but your neighbor said that you were gone. I'm afraid I have some bad news. Your brother and sister aren't at the orphanage anymore."
I felt as if someone had knocked the wind out of me. "What?! No it can't be. Nooooo, no we have to find them. They're alone...oh..no.." Tears were streaming down my face. Michael had to be wrong. "You're wrong, maybe you didn't look in the right place."
"I wish I was Jade, but I'm sorry..." I jumped out of the bed.
"It can't be, no, I can't just leave them out there alone, I have to find them!" I couldn't stop crying, how could I let this happen. It had been all my fault.
"Jade, they've been adopted, some couple from another country, we won't be able to track them down." Michael said, quietly. I looked at him and knew deep inside that he was right. I felt so weak and alone. An emptiness that I had never felt before filled up inside me. I knew then that it would be impossible to find them. Once a child is taken and adopted to a family outside the country, that child no longer belonged to China.

I tried to live my life again, but it was hard. I always thought about my brother and sister and hoped one day I would find them. Michael helped me a lot during those times. He cheered me up. I never saw him in the daytime, only at night, I always assumed he had to work. Until one night he changed me and my life forever.

I was getting dressed for a suprise that Michael said he had for me when I heard a knock on the door. "Yes?"
"Jade, it's me Michael. Can I come in?" I opened the door and found Michael waiting for me, dressed in a tuxedo. "Wow, you look beautiful." I had on a typical chinese dress made out of satin. It was the same color as dark green jade and had gold dragons and bright flowers embroidered onto it. The dress went down to my ankles and had two slits up the side. I remember it very clearly, it was the first nice dress I had ever owned. "I have something for you." Michael pulled out a black box with a small white ribbon tied around it.

"What is it?" He pulled the white ribbon off and removed the cover to reveal a small delicate looking necklace. It was a small jade heart surrounded by a gold lining and carved in it was a pheonix painted in gold. Michael took it out and gently placed it around my neck. "To protect you always from harm.." he whispered. I touched the necklace and it seemed to glow as if it new I was starting a new life as something new...something different. I had been living with Michael for a little over a month. I stayed in the same room he had put me in that night I lost my family. The room itself had stayed the same too, save for a few more objects, like my clothing. There was always a mirror in the room. It was set in red wood and stood about a foot above me. What I found strange was that it had always stayed covered. Even when I took it off, Mary would always cover it again. I never asked why, but that night I found out. ...to be continued.